Building Community through Shared History - A KU Memorial Union Program

“Who Would Command Greater Respect?”

To Kansans, Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine is perhaps best remembered for his Progressive Era efforts to make the Sunflower State a safer and healthier place. Crumbine’s unforgettable admonishments to “Bat the Rat,” “Swat the Fly,” and “Save the Baby” gave his crusading public health campaigns an extra edge, enhancing their effectiveness and helping ensure their success.

But catchy slogans were hardly Crumbine’s only claim to fame. During his long tenure as secretary of the Kansas State Board of Health – spanning the years 1904 to 1923 – he also battled the scourges of tuberculosis, typhoid fever, influenza and venereal disease, while waging hygienic war on tainted food, contaminated water, phony “patent medicines” and the communal drinking cup.

Both an unsparing enforcer of public health laws and a tireless public interpreter of the hard science behind them, Crumbine has been called “the most skillful educator the state has ever known,” one whose “classroom encompassed the whole of Kansas.” By his work, he won himself immense nationwide esteem and, by many measures, made Kansas the “healthiest state in the Union.”

On top of all this, in his spare time during an eight-year period between 1911 and 1919, Crumbine also served as dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine. The KU Board of Regents elected him to this position on December 9, 1910, and he assumed office the following year. Though largely a titular appointment, the Regents had high hopes that the “best-known man” in the Sunflower State would, as dean, significantly bolster the fledgling Medical School’s reputation.

To a large degree, this leap of faith did not go unrewarded. Crumbine’s deanship strengthened what were already substantial ties between the Kansas Board of Health, which Crumbine also continued to head, and KU’s medical and science faculties. This alliance of the “preventative and curative forces of the state” enabled greater analytical and research-oriented cooperation on a wide variety of public health causes to the lasting benefit of countless Kansans.

Also under Crumbine’s watch, the Med School began offering the nation’s first postgraduate courses for public health officers. Moreover, the School saw sharp rises in its curricular standards, in the quality of its graduating physicians, and in its overall standing in the minds of many formerly hostile members of the state medical community.

That said, owing to Crumbine’s nominal executive role – he was generally present at the Medical School no more than once a week – it remains difficult to precisely quantify his legacy as dean. With Associate Dean Mervin T. Sudler serving as the Medical School’s de facto administrator, Crumbine’s main assignment was to wield his considerable influence among Topeka lawmakers by boosting the institution’s prestige and increasing its paltry financial support. On these scores, the record is decidedly mixed.

Despite helping to fend off efforts by some opponents to ditch the School entirely, Dean Crumbine was unable to secure sufficient state financial backing to move the KU School of Medicine beyond second-class status. Indeed, Crumbine’s much-vaunted clout began to wane during the years of his association with KU. Ultimately, the political opposition to him became so fierce that it forced his resignation from the Med School helm, and eventually drove the exasperated public health pioneer out of Kansas altogether.

A native Pennsylvanian, Samuel Jay Crumbine was born on September 17, 1862. He first came to Kansas in the mid-1880s, albeit on a part-time basis. During these years, Crumbine was mainly in Ohio, studying at the Cincinnati College of Medicine and Surgery and apprenticing at a Cincinnati pharmacy. But on “summer vacations and holiday breaks from school,” he operated a drugstore near Dodge City, Kansas, which he part-owned. By 1889, the newly minted MD was also newly married to Cincinnatian Katherine Zuercher. They elected to make the “cowboy capital” of Dodge City their permanent home.

Actually, Dodge City’s “wild and wooly” days – characterized by gambling, gunfights, saloons and brothels aplenty, and featuring legendary lawmen like Wyatt Earp and W.B. “Bat” Masterson – had been receding into history since at least 1885, when the last of the cattle drives came through. Far more dangerous to people’s well-being were cholera and smallpox, a misunderstanding (even deep suspicion) of science-based medicine, plus an atrocious over-reliance, in Crumbine’s words, on “the supposed medical wisdom stored up by the ‘grannies’ who were always quick to tell others what to do for a pain or illness.”

As recounted in his popular autobiography titled Frontier Doctor (published in 1948), Dr. Crumbine took upon himself a two-fold responsibility in Dodge City. In the immediate term, he sought to treat his patients’ existing maladies. But taking the longer view, he also championed measures to prevent them from getting sick in the first place.

Among his early victories in this relatively new field of public health was convincing the local Harvey House diner to stop serving milk in germ-friendly, communal pitchers and, instead, bottle the beverage for individual consumption. (Established in Topeka in 1876 by British-born entrepreneur Fred Harvey, the Harvey Houses rank as the country’s first restaurant chain.) Soon Harvey Houses statewide adopted this sanitary practice.

Also significant were Crumbine’s efforts to shut down community “pesthouses.” Previously, Kansas towns had dealt with outbreaks of communicable diseases such as smallpox by corralling infected persons into these squalid facilities – where they either recovered or expired – and quarantining the uninfected in their homes. The net effect of these actions was to bring all commerce and public activity to a halt. Crumbine, however, helped do away with the pesthouse by instituting a much smarter and more efficient policy of keeping only the sick at home, while simply vaccinating everyone else.

While Crumbine’s public health initiatives often went hand-in-glove with his private medical practice, there was still only so much reform he could bring about, only so much influence he could exert, while working as an independent Dodge City practitioner. By happenstance, all that began to change in 1900 when Crumbine provided lifesaving care to the sick child of Ford County Attorney Edmond H. Madison.

In gratitude, Madison – a big player in Kansas Republican circles – cashed in a political favor on his physician’s behalf. Unbeknownst to Crumbine, Madison prevailed on Governor William E. Stanley to appoint the doctor to the nine-member Kansas State Board of Health (a body established in 1885). The governor agreed, and after some serious thought, Crumbine accepted.

His three-year term began in 1902. By 1904, Crumbine had bowed to his fellow Board members’ request to become their secretary (i.e., overall director). Necessitating a move to offices in the Topeka statehouse, Crumbine’s elevation to Board of Health secretary represented not merely a promotion and a change of scenery. It also inaugurated a roughly 20-year period during which Kansas spearheaded innumerable public health reforms and became the envy of state health officials nationwide – thanks in large part to Crumbine’s leadership and his myriad collaborations with the University of Kansas and its School of Medicine.

Long languishing for want of funds and legislative support, the Board of Health underwent a marked invigoration under Crumbine’s leadership. In this, he was aided by a progressive political and social climate that spurred passage of child labor and anti-trust laws; new railroad and utility regulations; and a wide variety of governmental reform measures designed to make elections fairer and more representative.

But in the field of public health, reform in Kansas was very nearly a one-man show – Crumbine’s – or at least that’s how it often appeared. Described by historian Thomas N. Bonner, in his 1959 book The Kansas Doctor, as a “courageous, likeable warrior … with a flair for drama and publicity,” Crumbine “went forth to defend the people against the trusts, food chains, dairies, and packing-houses which were poisoning and defrauding them.”

Although Crumbine’s crusades against disease-bearing flies and rats – memorably packaged in his slogans “Swat the Fly” and “Bat the Rat” – are perhaps his most prominent public health endeavors, of equal importance was his work in the realm of food purity and safety. On his own initiative, Crumbine collected samples statewide (everything from meat and vegetables to pastries and beer) and sent them to Dr. E.H.S. Bailey, professor and department chairman of chemistry at KU, for analysis. Thus began a “remarkable cooperation,” in Bonner’s words, “between the Board of Health and the University,” which instantly produced some striking, not to mention disturbing, results.

Among many other outrages, Bailey discovered that Kansans were eating “flour bleached by electrical process”; “jellies made from the refuse of cider mills treated with sulfuric acid”; “chocolate icing made of brown paint and glucose”; lemon juice laced with lead; vegetables containing copper (to make them appear greener); and hamburger “doped” with embalming fluid. Published and widely circulated by Crumbine’s Board of Health, Bailey’s research turned the state’s collective stomach.

It also helped secure passage of the Kansas Pure Food and Drug Act of 1907. This measure created a strong enforcement regime, which empowered Crumbine to punish those who adulterated or mislabeled food and drugs. Such offenders could now face heavy fines, even jail time. For his part, Dr. Bailey was made director of food analysis for the State Board of Health.

Another KU professor – Dean Lucius E. Sayre of the Mount Oread-based School of Pharmacy – aided Crumbine’s effort to pass legislation to ensure drug purity. Just as Crumbine had done with the food samples he had collected for Bailey, he now sent scores of so-called “patent medicines” to Dean Sayre for laboratory analysis. These concoctions, often marketed to mothers with ailing babies, had names like “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup” and “Dr. Moffett’s Teethina Teething Powders.”

Yet according to Sayre, an alarming number of patent medicines contained high percentages of alcohol, and some even contained narcotics like cocaine, morphine and opium. Thanks to Sayre’s research, Crumbine’s Board of Health was able to drive these poisons and their purveyors out of the Sunflower State. Sayre himself became the Board of Health’s director of drug analysis.

A third early Crumbine-KU collaboration was with Professor Marshall Barber, a bacteriologist at the KU School of Medicine. Barber was on the verge of international scientific acclaim for his invention of micropipettes – implements that enabled him to isolate individual bacteria and, in the process, prove the germ theory of disease. Beginning around 1907, he began providing invaluable analytical assistance to Crumbine on one of the Kansas Board of Health’s most significant campaigns.

Both Barber and Crumbine understood full well that the ubiquitous common drinking cup was extremely unsanitary. Widely available in such places as public schools and on railroad cars, these communal cups were a nearly perfect transmitter of diseases like tuberculosis.

Under Board of Health auspices, Barber collected swabbings from common cups in dozens of Kansas locales, then took them back to his KU lab for analysis. (Also assisting Barber in this enterprise on the University’s Lawrence campus were Dean Sayre, Dr. Bailey and KU Engineering School professor William C. Hoad, an expert in public sanitation who served as the Board of Health’s chief engineer from 1907-12.) Because of their work – which revealed rampant TB infection – a total ban of the common drinking cup was passed by the Kansas legislature in 1909, as was another law abolishing the “common towel” two years later.

By this time, Crumbine had amassed a considerable list of achievements. He had led his Board of Health to towering statewide prominence, record levels of funding and a near-universal salutary influence in the lives of everyday Kansans. He had also successfully parried charges of corruption (which were false to begin with) and weathered storms of stubborn opposition from a plethora of business interests unhappy with the new laws and regulations he had shepherded into being. In 1909, Crumbine even began serving as a lecturer on food and drugs on KU’s Lawrence campus, an appointment that further cemented his already close ties with the state’s flagship university.

Not so fortunate, and suffering from a mediocre reputation, was the University’s School of Medicine, which had become a four-year, MD-granting institution in 1905. To be sure, certain Med School professors had earned plaudits for their public health contributions. (In addition to Barber, bacteriology and pathology professor Dr. Samuel Emley was educating physicians and the citizenry at large on the scourge of tuberculosis, while Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball and a Med School professor of physical diagnosis, was helping Crumbine’s Board sell Kansans on the benefits of a fit and healthy lifestyle.)

But these accolades did not translate into substantial state support. They also could not overcome the Medical School’s systemic problems, nor blunt the sharp criticism of the School that was coming from both within the state as well as without.

Much of the disparagement was encapsulated in Carnegie Foundation researcher Abraham Flexner’s 1910 exposé titled Medical Education in the United States and Canada. According to this hard-hitting survey of more than 150 North American medical institutions, KU’s problems were indeed legion.

Many of the Medical School’s troubles stemmed from its divided campuses. The two-year Scientific Department, presided over by Dean Mervin T. Sudler, was based on Mount Oread and offered background science courses to the University’s medical students. And atop “Goat Hill,” some 40 miles east in of Lawrence in Rosedale (now part of present-day Kansas City, Kansas), was the two-year Clinical Department. Led by Dean George H. Hoxie, it provided instruction in such fields as surgery, obstetrics, pathology, and internal medicine, plus hands-on, patient-care experience in the Med School’s 35-bed Eleanor Taylor Bell Memorial Hospital.

What Flexner found, in actuality, were what he called “two half-schools,” cut apart from each other and unable to cooperate effectively. Moreover, while each division was sorely underfunded, the Clinical Department was in particularly dire straits, languishing due to inadequate facilities, the students’ insufficient access to patients, and a paucity of professors whose training had been what Flexner considered “modern.”

Flexner was not the only critic. The Medical School also had numerous homegrown detractors. Many Kansas physicians were unsupportive because, in their estimation, the KU School of Medicine employed far too many doctors from Kansas City, Missouri, and provided virtually no service to those living outside the state’s northeastern quadrant. A number of Kansas legislators were equally ill-disposed. Thinking the Clinical Department too isolated and expensive, they were always willing to entertain suggestions to either move it to Topeka or just abolish it altogether.

“The situation was desperate,” noted Bonner in The Kansas Doctor. “Doctors, legislators, editors [and] outside experts like Flexner were all agreed that action was necessary, but what action?” This was the principal question taken up by University Chancellor Frank Strong and the KU Board of Regents at their December 9, 1910, meeting. Their answer, figuratively put, was to hitch the Medical School’s rickety wagon to Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine’s star. More precisely, they decided to end the dual Scientific and Clinical Department deanships and, instead, elect Crumbine dean of an administratively united (though still geographically divided) KU School of Medicine.

“What man was better known to medical men [both inside and outside Kansas] than Dr. Crumbine,” as Bonner phrased the question that Strong and the Regents had asked themselves. “Who would command greater respect? What man was more likely to heal the growing breach between the medical profession and the University of Kansas?”

Further, with Crumbine’s considerable statehouse connections and influence, “Was there a better choice so far as political and legislative support were concerned?” And finally, “Who would not applaud a move to [formally] tie the University’s medical school to the popular State Board of Health?”

Board of Regents member William Allen White, famed editor of the Emporia Gazette, was certainly among the applauders. He broke the news about the deanship appointment to Crumbine. This doubtless came as a bit of a surprise since the Board of Health secretary had not sought the medical post, nor had he even expressed any interest in it.

“When I told [White] that I felt no particular qualifications for that office,” Crumbine recalled in Frontier Doctor, “he said that the matter had been thoroughly discussed and that the Regents felt that the cooperation between the University and the State Board of Health would be further strengthened by a union of the preventive and curative forces of the state.” Added White, as Crumbine remembered it, “Such a union, if you are Dean, will enable you to use the experts of the School of Medicine in a much broader and more useful way than you have been able to do as yet.”

While the benefits of linking Crumbine’s stellar statewide reputation to the Med School’s lowly one were certainly on the Regents’ minds, their written statements do stress White’s rather loftier sentiments. According to their December 9 resolution, they envisioned an arrangement whereby “all the work of the State Board of Health [dealing with] the prevention of disease and the teaching of curative medicine [would] be united with the School of Medicine” and ”put in the hands of one person,” namely Dr. Crumbine. (All non-medical activities, however – such as enforcing pure food laws and sealing weights and measures – would remain the sole province of the Board of Health.)

These were indeed grand ambitions, but they rested on Crumbine’s acceptance of the offer. This was not guaranteed. As Crumbine later confessed, he was “both perplexed and worried by this unexpected turn.” His leadership of the Board of Health was already a full-time job, complete with 30 subordinate employees. And while he was fully supportive of increased cooperation with the Medical School, he hardly relished the prospect of taking on additional obligations as its dean.

What eventually secured Crumbine’s acceptance was the Regents’ assurance that he would have virtually no day-to-day administrative duties. Dr. Mervin Sudler, dean of the Scientific Department, would be elevated to associate dean of the reorganized Medical School and effectively run the institution.

The full extent of Crumbine’s purely educational duties would be to lecture medical students on the Rosedale campus once a week on the subject of public health and preventative medicine. All his other responsibilities would revolve around enhancing the Medical School’s standing and strengthening its ability to obtain additional funding.

“It was understood,” as Bonner explained it, “that Crumbine would remain in Topeka as friend, lobbyist and last court of appeal for the Medical School.” Even Crumbine himself later freely admitted that his work as dean “did not wear me out.”

Crumbine’s tenure as the titular chief executive of the University of Kansas School of Medicine officially began on September 1, 1911. A typical favorable public reaction came from the Hutchinson News, which declared that “no [other] man in Kansas possesses all the necessary qualities” equal to the task.

This was the sort of positive reception for which KU had hoped. Yet as Bonner has pointed out, most causal observers did not realize the truly limited scope of Crumbine’s duties. In the end, this would play a part in reducing his anticipated effectiveness as well.

Crumbine was, however, on hand in Rosedale to celebrate the 1911 opening of the Medical School’s new and larger 65-bed Eleanor Taylor Bell Memorial Hospital. (The original facility bearing the Bell name was reconfigured to serve as the Training School for Nurses.) The construction of this second hospital had been authorized by the Kansas legislature before Crumbine took office, so it is unclear what effect – if any – he had on the appropriations process in Topeka. Nonetheless, he did take the occasion to herald the formalized Medical School-Board of Health relationship that his deanship embodied.

“So far as I know,” Crumbine said, “no other state has gone as far as Kansas in joining in a very practical manner her curative and preventative forces.” Such a partnership, he predicted, “will greatly enlarge the usefulness of the School of Medicine to the State and to the [medical] profession.” And what’s more, “these united forces may be instrumental in preventing much of the needless waste of human life and energy that has hitherto characterized our modern civilization.” With this ambitious charge, Crumbine and his fellow administrators pushed ahead.

Looking back, this new alliance did enjoy some marked successes. In 1911, for instance, the University of Kansas began offering the nation’s first postgraduate courses for public health officers. First given in Snow Hall on Mount Oread (then in 1914 moved to Rosedale) these classes were conducted jointly by Med School faculty and Board of Health specialists. They covered everything from basic chemistry and bacteriology to internal medicine and sanitary engineering. During Crumbine’s deanship, Bell Memorial Hospital also rendered valuable humanitarian service to the state by caring for and treating countless “crippled and deformed children of the indigent poor.”

Additionally, the increased educational and research-oriented assistance Crumbine’s Board of Health received from the KU Medical School during the 1910s contributed mightily to Kansas becoming the “healthiest state in the Union.” According to Bonner’s analysis of Census Bureau data, in almost every measurable category – including life expectancy and death rates due to heart disease, tuberculosis and cancer – Kansas was the national model of wellness.

As Crumbine put it in 1917, “Compared to the rest of the United States, Kansas is almost a health resort.” His colleagues nationwide seem to have agreed. For example, in the opinion of Dr. Haven Emerson, chairman of Columbia University’s Department of Public Health Administration, Kansas achieved its top ranking by deliberately pursuing “a long continued policy of constructive education and health service for the people of the state.”

Also during Crumbine’s tenure, two additional structures – a laboratory building and an outpatient facility – were erected on the Med School’s “Goat Hill” campus, the latter constructed with $50,000 in state funds. In 1912, mainly due to Associate Dean Sudler’s efforts, the School transferred its fourth-semester scientific classes from Mount Oread to Rosedale, the first step in a slow consolidation process. And in 1919, a fifth, intern year was made an additional requirement for KU MDs. While Medical School graduating classes remained small (numbering roughly a dozen a year), those who did become KU-educated physicians were “far better trained than their predecessors in the practice of modern medicine,” in Bonner’s words.

Just as encouraging during Crumbine’s stewardship was a changing attitude on the part of the Kansas medical community. Opposition to the KU School of Medicine had begun to soften a bit, and many Kansas physicians now rallied to the School’s defense in response to the occasional editorial and legislative cry to excise “the malignant growth known as the School of Medicine and Rosedale hospital.”

Finally, to the institution’s incalculable credit, among its faculty members were numerous outstanding physician-educators, many of whom had earned national, even international, renown in a wide variety of medical fields. Thus, despite its many deficiencies, more and more influential Kansans were becoming increasingly unwilling to see the KU School of Medicine simply “go to the wall.”

These advances notwithstanding, it remains difficult to precisely itemize or determine Crumbine’s effectiveness at his chief assignment of gaining more credibility for the Medical School with the Kansas legislature. Dr. Harry R. Wahl, who would serve as Med School dean for more than 20 years from the 1920s to the 1940s, once observed that Crumbine was “especially valuable … when the legislature was in session.” And historian Thomas Bonner contended that, “From what is known of [Crumbine’s] character, energies and achievements in public health, it is probably safe to assume that Chancellor Strong’s faith in him did not go completely unrewarded.”

But Bonner also leavened his praise of Crumbine with some harsher assessments. “Crumbine’s magic touch with politicians and legislators,” he concluded, “failed almost completely where the Medical School was concerned.” Indeed, however important Crumbine was, added Bonner, in “winning support for the School, … staving off its destruction … or healing the rift with the medical profession, the records do not tell us.”

Without singling Crumbine out by name, KU historian Clifford Griffin essentially agreed with this estimation. Throughout the period of Crumbine’s deanship, he wrote, “All that the Medical School’s leaders had … was a small, inadequate, understaffed school with a poor reputation.”

In October-November 1918, what they also had was a deadly wave of influenza (or “Spanish Flu” as it was known) to deal with, one that engulfed the state of Kansas, the nation, and ultimately the world. Thanks to the rapid imposition of quarantine measures on orders from Crumbine’s Board of Health – which included a month-long closing of the University of Kansas – as well as the emergency assistance of Med School students and faculty members, the death toll at KU was limited to 24 (out of a total student population of around 3,000).

But statewide, more than 12,000 Kansans lost their lives. (Nationally, the death toll was over 600,000; and worldwide, estimates reached as high as 37 million.) The Sunflower State’s status as a veritable “health resort” notwithstanding, according to some authorities, the killer strain had originated at Fort Riley, Kansas.

Crumbine’s reputation – at least in Kansas – was also due for a fall. In 1919, a Kansas law was enacted stipulating “no employee of the state should be paid a salary for holding one position while his time was spent in another.” As both secretary of the Board of Health and dean of the School of Medicine, this measure obviously affected Crumbine, something his political opponents in Topeka – allies, perhaps, of the many business interests he’d disciplined over the years – were quick to point out.

Therefore, effective June 30, 1919, Crumbine submitted his resignation as Medical School dean to the Kansas Board of Administration – the successor body to the Boards of Regents that (since 1913) exercised jurisdiction over all public colleges and universities. “In taking this action,” members resolved, “the Board records its appreciation of the valued service rendered by Dr. Crumbine in his devoted and efficient performance of the important duties of his office.” In his place, Dr. Mervin T. Sudler was named Medical School dean, a job he had been essentially doing since 1911. (Crumbine did, however, manage to remain a professor of preventive medicine for another year.)

Not apparently satisfied with securing Crumbine’s ouster as dean, his “enemies continued their relentless vendetta,” wrote KU School of Medicine professor and institutional historian Dr. Ralph H. Major, “their next object being to remove him as secretary of the Board of Health.” Four years later, following the election of Democrat Jonathan M. Davis to the governor’s chair, Crumbine’s “enemies” saw their chance.

Upon assuming office in January 1923, Davis had hopes of ensuring Democratic Party longevity in Topeka by building a patronage machine and rewarding supporters with state jobs. There was nothing in this scheme that Republicans hadn’t been doing for years, but the change in party did mean there would be disruptions aplenty, even at state boards that had been considered largely apolitical.

“This new governor,” Crumbine wrote in Frontier Doctor, “sent word to me … that he wished to make 40 percent new appointments to the staff of the State Board of Health, a suggestion that shocked me as it had always been understood that [the Board was] exempt from political interference.” Indeed, in his 19 years as Board secretary, Crumbine had personally made all appointments himself, subject to approval of his fellow members, and was not about to unseat trusted colleagues to make room for the governor’s partisan cronies.

Yet Davis, while apparently averse to canning the near iconic Crumbine, had no qualms about axing everyone else. Accordingly, he unceremoniously dismissed the entire Board of Health (save Crumbine). Davis then ordered his new, handpicked cohorts to do the dirty work of firing the long-serving secretary – which surprisingly, they refused to do! Incensed, the governor personally called for Crumbine’s resignation. The popular backlash was immediate.

“A public clamor,” wrote Bonner, “unlike anything affecting a state institution before welled up from all sections and classes” in Kansas. Ultimately, though, the 61-year-old Crumbine – despite receiving fulsome support from literally scores of organizations and thousands of individuals statewide – had had enough. Unable to exercise his responsibilities amid such intense political rancor, he tendered his resignation as Board of Health secretary on June 5, 1923. It was not the only thing he resolved to leave. “As Dr. Crumbine told me a day or so later when I saw him in Topeka,” recalled Major, “‘I think it’s about time I left Kansas.’”

Considering that Samuel Crumbine’s 1902 entrée to the Board of Health came through a patronage appointment – as a thank-you for saving the life of a connected politico’s child – it is perhaps somewhat ironic then that, 21 years later, patronage would again play a role in running him out of office.

Crumbine and the Board of Health were not, however, the only casualties of Governor Davis’ attempt to build a Democratic Party patronage jobs machine. The University of Kansas and its School of Medicine also suffered a variety of travails. These ranged from gubernatorial interference in University hiring decisions and the forced resignation of Dean Sudler to the loss of a prospective multimillion-dollar grant from the Rockefeller Foundation for the Med School because of the turmoil.

Indeed, even after he was defeated for reelection in 1924, a now-vengeful Davis continued to wreak veritable havoc on the University during his waning months as a lame duck. The most egregious example of this was the outright firing of KU Chancellor Ernest H. Lindley by the Davis-controlled Board of Administration. Although Lindley was quickly reinstated when Republican Ben Paulen took over as governor, the damage had been done, particularly to the Medical School, which would have its halting ascent to first-class status even further delayed.

As for Dr. Samuel Crumbine, his post-Kansas and KU years were rife with accomplishment. Relocating to New York City to become executive secretary of the American Child Health Association, an undertaking organized by Herbert Hoover before he became president, Crumbine devoted himself to bettering lives on a much grander scale. In later years, he would hold many other prestigious positions in the burgeoning field of public health, championing his original Kansas causes in national and international forums, and even adding some new ones – such as prison reform and outlawing prostitution.

Given the circumstances of his departure from Kansas and his forced separation from the Medical School, Crumbine scarcely could have been blamed for harboring resentment toward the state to which he gave almost 40 years of his life. Yet what becomes strikingly apparent from his 1948 autobiography is that he manifestly did not feel this way. Instead, he expressed a “nostalgic longing for the Kansas prairies” and recalled “imperishable memories” of the friends and colleagues with whom he had once worked.

“During his years in Kansas,” observed Bonner, Crumbine, “like all great men, [was] better appreciated outside his own territory than in it.” Granted, wrote Major, but when Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine died in 1954 at the age of 91, he was “respected and honored as one of the outstanding physicians of his generation” – by Kansan and non-Kansan alike.


Source Notes

[Source Notes: The majority of the documents and materials consulted for this article can be found in the University of Kansas Medical Center Archives. They include: Thomas N. Bonner, The Kansas Doctor: A Century of Pioneering, (Kansas Medical Society, 1959), pp. 120-171; Samuel J. Crumbine, M.D., Frontier Doctor: The Autobiography of a Pioneer on the Frontier of Public Health, (Dorrance & Company, 1948); Ralph H. Major, M.D., An Account of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, (University of Kansas Medical Alumni Association, 1968), pp. 19-21; Clifford Griffin, The University of Kansas: A History, (University Press of Kansas, 1974), pp. 264-273; Frank Strong to Dr. S.J. Crumbine (November 30, 1909); E.H.S. Bailey to Dr. S.J. Crumbine (December 1, 1909); Resolutions of the KU Board of Regents meeting (December 9, 1910); Frank Strong to Dr. S.J. Crumbine (December 12, 1910); Secretary to the Chancellor to Dr. S.J. Crumbine (June 30, 1919); Dr. Mervin T. Sudler to Dr. S.J. Crumbine (April 19, 1923); Dr. S.J. Crumbine to Dr. Mervin T. Sudler (April 20, 1923); Kansas City Times (February 9, 1946); Kansas City Times (June 4, 1946).]